Bless you, sir, the way she tended them two children after the mother died was the talk of the yard! And it was a wonder to see her with him after he was took ill, it really was! 'Mrs. Blinder,' he said to me the very last he spoke--he was lying there --'Mrs. Blinder, whatever my calling may have been, I see a angel sitting in this room last night along with my child, and I trust her to Our Father!'"
"He had no other calling?" said my guardian.
"No, sir," returned Mrs. Blinder, "he was nothing but a follerers. When he first came to lodge here, I didn't know what he was, and I confess that when I found out I gave him notice. It wasn't liked in the yard. It wasn't approved by the other lodgers. It is NOT a genteel calling," said Mrs. Blinder, "and most people do object to it. Mr. Gridley objected to it very strong, and he is a good lodger, though his temper has been hard tried."
"So you gave him notice?" said my guardian.
"So I gave him notice," said Mrs. Blinder. "But really when the time came, and I knew no other ill of him, I was in doubts. He was punctual and diligent; he did what he had to do, sir," said Mrs. Blinder, unconsciously fixing Mr. Skimpole with her eye, "and it's something in this world even to do that."
"So you kept him after all?"
"Why, I said that if he could arrange with Mr. Gridley, I could arrange it with the other lodgers and should not so much mind its being liked or disliked in the yard. Mr. Gridley gave his consent gruff--but gave it. He was always gruff with him, but he has been kind to the children since. A person is never known till a person is proved."
"Have many people been kind to the children?" asked Mr. Jarndyce.
"Upon the whole, not so bad, sir," said Mrs. Blinder; "but certainly not so many as would have been if their father's calling had been different. Mr. Coavins gave a guinea, and the follerers made up a little purse. Some neighbours in the yard that had always joked and tapped their shoulders when he went by came forward with a little subscription, and--in general--not so bad. Similarly with Charlotte. Some people won't employ her because she was a follerer's child; some people that do employ her cast it at her; some make a merit of having her to work for them, with that and all her draw-backs upon her, and perhaps pay her less and put upon her more. But she's patienter than others would be, and is clever too, and always willing, up to the full mark of her strength and over. So I should say, in general, not so bad, sir, but might be better."
Mrs. Blinder sat down to give herself a more favourable opportunity of recovering her breath, exhausted anew by so much talking before it was fully restored. Mr. Jarndyce was turning to speak to us when his attention was attracted by the abrupt entrance into the room of the Mr. Gridley who had been mentioned and whom we had seen on our way up.
"I don't know what you may be doing here, ladies and gentlemen," he said, as if he resented our presence, "but you'll excuse my coming in. I don't come in to stare about me. Well, Charley! Well, Tom! Well, little one! How is it with us all to-day?"
He bent over the group in a caressing way and clearly was regarded as a friend by the children, though his face retained its stern character and his manner to us was as rude as it could be. My guardian noticed it and respected it.
"No one, surely, would come here to stare about him," he said mildly.
"May be so, sir, may be so," returned the other, taking Tom upon his knee and waving him off impatiently. "I don't want to argue with ladies and gentlemen. I have had enough of arguing to last one man his life."
"You have sufficient reason, I dare say," said Mr. Jarndyce, "for being chafed and irritated--"
"There again!" exclaimed the man, becoming violently angry. "I am of a quarrelsome temper. I am irascible. I am not polite!"
"Not very, I think."
"Sir," said Gridley, putting down the child and going up to him as if he meant to strike him, "do you know anything of Courts of Equity?"
"Perhaps I do, to my sorrow."
"To your sorrow?" said the man, pausing in his wrath, "if so, I beg your pardon.